RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Raytown city and police officials are becoming frustrated that police are being called so often to the local Walmart, saying that the company pays no taxes that would support city services at a time when Raytown is struggling with budget deficits.
Officers in the Kansas City, Missouri, suburb made more than 500 arrests last year at the Raytown Walmart — about 30 percent of the city’s reported serious crimes. That police burden comes as Raytown leaders wrestle with cutting more than $3 million from the police budget.
And, a tax increment financing deal agreed to when the store was built a decade ago means Walmart pays not taxes, which diverts about $300,000 in tax dollars away from public safety every year, The Kansas City Star reports.
This week, Alderman Eric Teeman suggested labeling the Walmart a “public nuisance.”
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“Right now, we’re getting this much from Walmart,” Teeman said, making a “zero” sign with his hand. “Walmart’s bleeding this town.”
His comments come as Raytown is enacting budget cuts in all city departments. The police department will lose 30 jobs, including 17 officers, 10 full-time civilian workers and three full-time civilians. It will mean fewer detectives working cases, Raytown Police Chief Jim Lynch wrote Monday in an open letter to the public.
Walmart spokesman Ragan Dickens said no retailer is immune from crime at its stores, noting the company employs off-duty law enforcement officers at the Raytown store. He also said greeters placed at Walmart stores’ front doors are “that first and last line of defense.”
“We put a lot of focus into catching these criminals, so yes we call the police,” Dickens said.
Walmart has been criticized in other cities for the cost to local governments of policing its stores. Last year, the Tampa Bay Times showed that local law enforcement agencies in that area were called to Walmart stores more than any other location.
“There’s quite a bit of research on some of these big box stores, specifically Walmart, and jurisdictions all over the country and how they are a drain on local resources,” said Raytown Police Maj. Randy Hudspeth.
Declaring Walmart a public nuisance might allow the city to charge the company for public safety services and Teeman’s suggestion at a public meeting on Tuesday was met with applause. But Raytown officials said Wednesday they were not actively working on anything related to the suggestion.
Although Walmart does hire off-duty officers at the store, on-duty officers still must respond to calls at the store, which drains resources, Lynch said.
Lynch said he is researching how other police departments have managed call volumes at their Walmarts but he hasn’t found clear answers.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com